On the Desperate Housewives episode titled “Let Me Entertain You”, which aired on October 24, 2010, Susan takes her online career to the next level by doing live webcam chats with men who want to see more than her housecleaning skills. After refusing to undress for a webcam client and calling the man a pig, Susan is fired from “Va-Va-Va Broom”. Later on in the episode, Maxine calls Susan and offers her the job back because a man has offered to pay a large amount of money to have a live chat with Susan. Since she desperately needs the money, Susan agrees to do the session with this man. Unfortunately, the man on the other side of the chat is Paul Young. Paul Young used to live on Wisteria Lane. He murdered one neighbor but was accused and eventually acquitted of the murder of another neighbor. Susan unknowingly rented her house to him when her family decided to move to save money. He asks Susan if he could buy her house and she replies no because it is not for sale. The show ends with Paul threatening Susan that either she sell him the house or he will expose her dirty little secret.
This episode raises an interesting legal issue: is Paul Young committing a crime by forcing Susan to sell him her house? Since the state where this show takes place is fictional, we will look at the laws regarding this matter in a sample state. This episode is about entertaining, so California will be the sample state because so many entertainers reside there.
According to California law, if Susan sells Paul Young her house because of his threat to expose her online career, Paul could be guilty of extortion (commonly known as blackmail). California’s laws regarding extortion can be found in the following sections of the California Penal Code.
Extortion is the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.
Fear, such as will constitute extortion, may be induced by a threat, either:
1. To do an unlawful injury to the person or property of the individual threatened or of a third person; or,
2. To accuse the individual threatened, or any relative of his, or member of his family, of any crime; or,
3. To expose, or to impute to him or them any deformity, disgrace or crime; or,
4. To expose any secret affecting him or them.
Every person who extorts any money or other property from another, under circumstances not amounting to robbery or carjacking, by means of force, or any threat, such as is mentioned in Section 519, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years.
If Susan sells Paul her house because of his threat to reveal her secret online career, he would have obtained her property by the use of fear. Paul is threatening to expose her secret because he knows that Susan fears the disgrace she will feel if her family and friends ever find out. Obviously, Susan is ashamed of what she is doing because she has gone to great lengths to hide her job from her friends and family. She has paid $9,000 to keep advertisers from using her picture in their ads for Va-Va-Va Broom. The punishment for extortion is 2-4 years in state prison. However, it is unlikely that Susan would press charges because then her secret would definitely have to be exposed.
It is unknown why Paul is so determined to buy Susan and Mike’s house. Paul originally asked Mike to sell him the house for a price above the market value, but Mike adamantly refused his offer. Unfortunately, this caused Paul to threaten Susan. Stay tuned to see if Susan reluctantly sells the house to Paul, or tells her family and friends about her online career.